REDMOND — It didn’t end the way they hoped.
But the Powder Valley Badgers left the Class 1A state tournament with one of the best finishes in program history.
For the second year in a row, though, St. Paul got the best of Powder Valley in a matchup of 1A volleyball powerhouses.
The Buckaroos used a big run in each set and an 18-kill performance by Isabelle Wyss to top the Badgers, 25-13, 25-14, 25-16, in the 1A championship match Saturday night in Redmond.
The loss dropped the Badgers (34-2 overall) to second place for the second year in a row and fifth time in program history. Powder Valley also took second in 2001, 2010 and 2011. The Badgers’ lone state title came in 2012.
“Overall it was a good season. I obviously would have wanted to get first, but I’m not disappointed with how things ended,” said setter Brooke Allen, who had four kills and 12 assists in the final.
The loss ended a 29-match winning streak for the Badgers, who returned to the championship despite losing six seniors from the team that faced St. Paul a year ago — and losing a key performer in the latter stages of the season this fall.
“It was really impressive,” Keanna Bingham, who had five kills, said of her team’s ability to get back to the final. “We lost Belle (Blair) midway through the season, and we had a talk about how we had the same goal and that wasn’t going to change anything. (Even after) losing really good seniors last year we knew we could be just as good this year. It was our goal throughout the season (and) from the beginning of the summer to make it back here.”
The Badgers had little trouble in the quarterfinal win over Damascus Christian Friday morning, winning 25-16, 25-14, 25-19.
They appeared set to coast to the championship after taking the first two sets from Country Christian later Friday, 25-17, 25-11. But the Cougars rallied to take sets 3 and 4, 25-17, 25-23, before the Badgers regrouped to take the final set, 15-8, to reach the final.
Josi Krieger, one of two seniors who played for the final time over the weekend, said “it was all fight” for the Badgers to overcome in the final set against Country Christian.
“We knew that we deserved to be in the championship game, and we knew that if we didn’t get it, our whole entire goal for the season would be gone,” she said.
The Badgers started strong in the championship match, going up 7-2 early in the opening set on an ace by Autumn Davis and a Buckaroos’ attack error for Powder’s biggest lead.
The margin was still 10-6 after a kill by Bingham, but then St. Paul heated up. The Buckaroos scored the next 12 points, with Wyss netting eight kills in the rally, to take an 18-10 lead.
Bingham said that since the teams had met in the final a year earlier, Powder Valley had an idea of what to expect from the hard-hitting Buckaroos, but the Badgers played timid anyway.
“So we knew exactly what we were going against,” she said. “I think we psyched ourselves out a little bit.”
Krieger, who had five kills and 11 digs, had a kill to stop the rally, but the Badgers got no closer than seven in the set.
It set a theme for the night, as a run of 14-2 broke the second set open and put the Buckaroos up 22-11, before Wyss ended the set with two more kills.
An 8-0 run early in the third gave the Buckaroos an 11-3 lead. The Badgers showed fight in an effort to get back in the match. Kills by Krieger and Allen cut the margin to 13-9, and another Allen kill made it 15-10.
“We were saying to swing away,” Allen said of the team’s message as it tried to rally. “We got nothing to lose, so give it our all. It’s our last game of the season, it’s the seniors’ last game ever, so give it everything you have.”
The Bucks opened up the lead to 24-12 before Davis individually sparked one final rally, with a kill and back-to-back aces to trim the margin to eight before St. Paul finished off the win.
While each Badger player admitted they didn’t have their best night Saturday, Allen said the Buckaroos would have been formidable even if the Badgers were on.
“St. Paul is a really good team. They would be tough to beat regardless of how we played,” she said.
Davis, who had five kills and five aces, said the Badgers’ team chemistry played an important role in its success during the season.
“We came back really strong, and even better than last year, I thought,” the senior said. “We bonded really well as a team, and played really well all the way around all season.”
The team will lose Davis and Krieger to graduation, but return everyone else next fall.
“We should be good next year, too,” Bingham said.